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Brazil Spider Offers Hope for Those Suffering from Erectile Dysfunction

in penis pressure.

The scientists also found an increase in nitric oxide within the two main cylindrical cavities that run the length of the penis and are called corpora cavernosa. The significance of the nitric oxide is clear when the science behind an erection is considered: The brain senses sexual arousal in the body and certain neurons produce nitric oxide, a message telling the body to get started in making an erection. A cascade of biochemical steps occurs, one of which includes the production of an enzyme dubbed cGMP. This enzyme causes the smooth muscles of the penis’ two cylinders to relax so that blood can rush in and fill up the now expandable tubes. (A human penis can hold about 10 times more blood when erect compared with its non-erect state.)

“All of this leads to vaso-dilation of vessels that go through the penis and also relaxation of those [cylindrical tube muscles],” Leite told LiveScience. “They need to relax so the blood will come inside and that’s how you get an erection, because the blood gets trapped into the penis.”

But erections don’t last forever. The erectile party crasher, a substance called PDE-5 breaks down the cGMP and in turn transforms the erect penis into its normal limp state.

The most popular erectile-dysfunction drugs—Viagra, Cialis and Levtra—work by blocking this party crasher.

The spider chemical works in a different manner, affecting an earlier step in the erection process. Somehow, the toxin ups the amount of nitric oxide, which sort of sets into motion an erection. The scientists suggest that a combination of a synthetic version of the spider venom with a drug like Viagra would result in a magnified effect.

“So the combination of the two drugs could be even more efficient in patients that don’t respond well to Viagra,” Leite said.

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